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Today’s Cotton Wool Kids – Products Liability Blog

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It is a sad fact of our age that with the advent of the video game, the kids of today will be missing out on an integral part of growing up which is accruing scars – the medals to show that you have actually learned not to pour water on your hands from a boiling kettle, or take the first test drive down a very steep hill on the go-kart you’ve just fashioned out of pram wheels and a couple of planks of wood, without first addressing some form of braking system. Another contributing factor to the molly-coddled generation is the claim culture which we now embrace so vehemently, ensuring that most of the toys available today are not only uber safe, but are indeed no fun at all. So imagine the number of products liability claims that would be pending if the following weapons ‘toys’ were still available…..

1/ The Gilbert Chemistry Set

Hours Of Fun For Terrorists!

This may look like a pretty safe (boring) science kit, but among the 56 chemicals included in the Gilbert chemistry set was some potentially deadly stuff. Like potassium permanganate, which, besides being poisonous, has been known to make things catch fire. Or ammonium nitrate, the same chemical that the U.S. wants to regulate now because it’s used in homemade bombs.

Oh Dear!
Oh Dear!

All that came in the same box – at no point in history has being a young geek on his birthday been so dangerous. The manual itself taught kids how to create explosions with gunpowder (on the first page) and the sole safety feature consisted of a single line telling them not to attempt the same experiment on a larger scale – which only served the purpose of informing kids that this was a possibility.

2/ The Gilbert Molten Lead Casting Kit

Hey Ma, I'm Loving These Fumes!
Hey Ma, I’m Loving These Fumes!

Cast toy soldiers with molten lead. What could possibly go wrong? It included supplies for making soldiers, battleships, aeroplanes, cannons and horses, amongst other things. Later models did include a machine that did the pouring, but it still had an open top, which doesn’t sound like that much of a safety improvement … despite the ads’ best efforts to convince us otherwise…


3/ The Gilbert Glass Blowing Set

Look Ma! No Hands! (Literally)
Look Ma! No Hands! (Literally)

If you’ve ever seen a glass blowing demonstration, the chances are it was performed by an adult. If you were a child of the 1950s however, you could quite happily sit there and do it yourself. Bear in mind that in order to be able to change the shape of the glass, first it has to reach its softening point, which is around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Gilbert Glass Blowing Set encouraged children to try this without any safety equipment in order to carry out a series of wildly irresponsible experiments detailed in the manual:

My Eyes! Mum Where Are You? My Eyes!
My Eyes! Mum Where Are You? My Eyes!

Although I seriously doubt cheap plastic safety goggles would have been much protection if a young craftsman had completed one of the experiments that required inflating a bubble of hot gas until it burst in his face, as if that’s not how every single project would end anyway.

4/ The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

Toys For The Mutated Generation!
Toys For The Mutated Generation!

Oh yes folks I jest you not. In 1950, as the atomic age dawned, our old friends at the A. C. Gilbert Company proudly introduced an educational playset for budding nuclear scientists, the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Kit. The sophisticated (and expensive) science set came with everything your little Oppenheimer-wannabe would need: Real samples of uranium (which is radioactive) and radium (which is a million times more radioactive than uranium). Since the mere presence of radioactive material in a children’s product clearly wasn’t insane enough, some of the experiments detailed in the manual also required kids to handle blocks of dry ice.

No-one Around Today For A Replacement Sadly!
No-one Around Today To Order A Replacement Sadly!

Dry ice, by the way, has a temperature of minus 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s recommended that it only be handled while wearing gloves (none of which were included). Happily though, the set contained a little Geiger counter that kids could use to measure the amount of radiation left in their bodies after each play session.

Clearly in today’s market Mr. Gilbert would struggle to obtain products liability insurance and I’m certain even we here at Comparecrazy would laugh him out of town. However, if you’re involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of any product, Comparecrazy for your products liability insurance. (excludes radioactive substances). The business insurance comparison site!


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